Last week we visited the concepts of the family Emotional Bank Account and the Family Memory Banks. Having explored the idea for a week, what changes have you observed? Once you set the intention to accent the positive, what kinds of things did you notice in both yourself and your family members? How did your own mood affect your ability to connect.
This week, intensify your commitment to building up those positive emotions. Stuff the account without any expectation of gratitude or reciprocity. Whether family responds with doubt, skepticism, puzzlement or co-operation, keep the good will flowing. Notice how the energy between you changes. Feel the difference within yourself. Observe the impact in others. Note the tiniest improvement. Comment aloud on how you feel in this improved emotional space. When they feel your shift, they will notice and eventually, they will follow the positive lead that you have set. Refrain from pressing or insisting that others follow your lead.
Keeping an Emotional Bank Account stance means genuinely and respectfully listening to their point of view, absorbing the details, the emotions and the reasons that support their position. They will feel heard once you can articulate their position as well as they can. (Note: Understanding does not equal agreeing, accepting or condoning. It means absorbing their data points.Changing your position isn't required although that is certainly possible.)
We must model deep listening so they can learn what it means, how it feels and what it looks like. Empathic, authentic listening is a tremendous and rare event. Usually we are so busy pressing our own points and being “right” or “in charge,” or preparing our rebuttal, we half-listen and/or dismiss their points. Sometimes their emotions may elicit discomfort, frustration, guilt or anger within us. Our emotions are our choice, our responsibility. We own our feelings. We control them and we can change them if we choose.
Feelings are at the root of our interactions. They give rise to thoughts and behaviors. If you want behaviors to improve, work on understanding the emotions that drive them. Avoid remarks that dismiss or belittle their feelings. This breaks trust and weakens attachment. It establishes a pattern of covering up strong emotions in denial or masking them with an overlay of false positivity which leaves kids unsupported. It gives them the message that their feelings are not respected or that they are too big for parents to deal with. Instead, create a space where they can express their fear, anger, loss, frustration as well as their joys. While this level of honesty can feel scary and uncomfortable, it is an honest exchange that acknowledges 360 degrees of emotion and is real and validating.
How might this look in action? When a child is sad, angry, or disappointed, resist playing “fix it” or “it could be worse.” Simply listen, acknowledge and accept. Again, it is NOT necessary that you share the same feelings. Just be okay with each of you being entitled to your own emotions without insisting the other person change feelings to reflect yours. Simply be with them in that emotional space. When they are ready, ask for their ideas on how to move forward and how they would like you to support them. This conveys a sense that you believe they are capable of designing their solutions. Capability is a great antidote to taking a victim stance. It's about action and change and feels so much better than camping out on the pity pot!
Often within ourselves we hold conflicting emotions, for example: joy about adopting our child and sadness that they had to lose their first family. It’s no wonder that between individuals, we’ll conflicts in emotional stances. Seek to support their emotions instead of change them. This evidences respect and builds connection. And isn’t that what we want in our relationships?
How has your Family Emotional Bank Account changed? What was the biggest blessing? How will you to continue this effort?